Calendar and Confusion

I counted over eighty calendars listed on a page in Wikipedia. Then there are other variations to month names and non-standard weeks.

In our era, the commonly used calendar is the Gregorian calendar introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. It was developed to correct the ‘drift’ of the calendar with respect to the equinoxes.

The old Roman year had 304 days divided into 10 months, beginning with March.
In the 1st century AD the calendar in use was the Julian calendar. Julius Caesar realized that the old Roman calendar system had become inoperable, so he effected drastic changes in the year of his third consulship. The New Year in 709 AUC began on 1 January and ran over 365 days until 31 December. Further adjustments were made under Augustus, who introduced the concept of the “leap year.”

However, man’s ideas do not alter the ‘pattern’ of the heavens, or control the sun or moon. They were set at creation.

Before the Calendar

God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” There was an evening, and there was a morning: one day.
Genesis 1:5 CSB – Holman Publishers.

Did you catch that? There was an evening, and there was a morning: one day. At creation, and throughout Hebrew history, a day started just after sunset.

This was one of the most difficult things for me to keep in mind when writing my novels set in the 1st century AD.

(It also meant that when Jesus rose from the dead early on the first day of the week, it would have been Saturday evening by our thinking. But that’s another story.)

The Hebrew Calendar

Hebrew calendar

Running concurrently with those eighty-odd calendars was the calculated Hebrew calendar, a variation of which is in use in Israel today.

The Hebrew calendar is very complicated, because it has to align the solar year (365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46-seconds) with the lunar year (12 months of 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 3 seconds).

In leap years (such as 5779) an additional month, Adar I (30 days) is added after Shevat, while the regular Adar is referred to as “Adar II.”

Also calculated differently were the days.

Unlike our standard modern 12-hour clock that assigns 12 o’clock pm for noon time, in the ancient Jewish tradition, noon time was always the sixth hour of the day. The first hour began with the break of dawn, the ninth hour three pm.

Then there were the nights. The Jews reckoned three military watches: the “first” or beginning of the watches (Lamentations 2:19), from sunset to ten o’clock; the second or “middle watch” was from ten until two o’clock (Judges 7:19); the third, “the morning watch,” from two to sunrise (Exodus 14:24; 1 Samuel 11:11).

Under the Romans they had four watches (Matthew 14:25): Luke 12:38, “even, midnight, cockcrowing, and morning” (Mark 13:35) ending respectively at 9 p.m., midnight, 3 a.m., and 6 a.m.

The current Western calendar

January in the northern hemisphere
January in Nothern Hemisphere
January in the Southern Hemisphere By BaroBert - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Even though it is strange to have the first month of the year start in ‘the dead of winter’, or the heat of summer, (for those of us ‘down under’), we are used to our calendar.

It was only when researching for my novels that I discovered there were many iterations of the calendar over the years.

For those living in the times of the change between versions of the calendar it must have been confusing.

The Julian calendar was created because “Drastic measures were required to make up for the many omitted leap months. Therefore 46 BC became a year with 15 months and 445 days; that year has been aptly termed “the last year of confusion.”

The Hebrew calendar has two ‘new years.’

Abib/Nisan – the biblical/religious new year.

Rosh Hashanah – the civil new year.

Our days…

Begin with sunrise, whatever time that happens to be – dependent on the time of year.

I guess my thinking on this calendar ‘issue’… is that it is difficult to look at historical times through our 21st century eyes if we do not know what their times were like.

I will close this week’s musings with a photo of sunrise taken by myself when I used to be able to go for early morning walks.


Sunrise, Western Australia

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